Posts tagged ‘Ron Ruggles’

September 4, 2010

Restaurateurs Have More Right Than Ministers…

Leah Chase stood in the middle of her restaurant in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, pounded her fist into her palm and flatly stated “By God, I’m going to reopen.” Six months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, fifteen feet from this life-long restaurateur, I watched her eyes, full of fire, grit and bull-dog determination.

Leah Chase

Leah Chase

Leah Chase apparently never ran her restaurant to get rich. When I met her that early spring, she was aged, standing in the utter ruins of a neighborhood with rich history – a history full of music, food and long relationships. As we stood in the chaos of a blown-out restaurant, jumbles of electrical wires and naked framing abundant, the smell of mold and decay rampant six months after destruction, Leah told us stories of the restaurant.

Two of these stories illustrate clearly a thesis I propose to you. The first is from the civil rights era in the sixties. Leah and her restaurant were much younger then and as we stood there in her bombed out establishment (with no federal or state relief in sight), Leah related how she cooked for and served Martin Luther King several times a week, often joining his table for the post-dinner strategy sessions. MLK built community. He was one of those rare ministers that crossed theological divisions to build community in a tour de force display of will. Leah, with her abilities in food and service, helped sustain that effort, and through that work, built local community in Lower Ninth Ward that crossed theological, and political, divides across five decades.

Her next story is more poignant. Within 72 hours of Katrina lashing the Lower Ninth Ward in demolition furies, Leah and a few of her crew gathered at the restaurant. Within a week, Leah and some of her crew were making food for those residents of Lower Ninth Ward that had stayed behind. By the end of the first week, people were gathering at Leah’s restaurant, pinning notes to the beams, searching for those they knew; striving to come together in community again. Leah’s restaurant became the gathering place in Lower Ninth Ward to find your neighbors. Her restaurant was the focal point of rebuilding in tragedy; so much more effective than safety agencies, churches or other entities.

My thesis is this. Restaurateurs and Chefs have more legitimate right to be called “community builders” than ministers, politicians or nonprofits do. In this industry, our establishments are places where people gather; coming together across theological and political fences to celebrate each other’s joys and achievements, mourn each other’s losses and provide comfort and companionship, laugh with friends and family, assist and counsel peers. Our restaurants, from the coffee shop to the neighborhood bar to the casual fast-food to the best dining spots in the world, embody this age-less tenet of our business. We are humanity’s sacred gathering spot.

Since the age of hunters and gatherers, humanity has gathered around the fire. We are the only specie that has gathered around fire and used it to prepare food. Each time humans have done this, we have reinforced the basic building block of community – sharing with each other; sharing sustenance, not only in meal, but also in gathering together.

Today, in this society, it still occurs. It happens every day in our one million plus restaurant locations in the USA. Our specie still gathers and communes with each other in joy and compassion. While often the fire is tucked away in the back of the house – it remains the gathering place. I think as hosts, we often forget this, in the daily struggle with staffing, equipment, suppliers, et al.

How much more village can restaurateurs and chefs build by keeping their right as community builders closer to the chest? How much deeper connections can we assist in forging by recognizing each table as a unique and singular moment of opportunity to strengthen the bonds of community and humanity? And to be frank, wouldn’t a restaurant that pays attention to this enjoy the benefits of greater sustainability?

Three years after standing with Billy Shore, Mary Sue Milliken, Floyd Cardoz, Ron Ruggles and others on that Share Our Strength expedition to Katrina-devastated New Orleans, Leah re-opened her restaurant. I’m humbled that I was able to meet her. I hope my daughters have 1/100th of her spirit and determination in their lives and that they too – are community builders, no matter what their profession.

As always, I welcome your feedback, critique and observations.

Jeffrey J Kingman, CEO ~ Chalkboarder

@JeffreyJKingman



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May 23, 2010

One Year And Growing

It was a year ago that Chalkboarder was created. My partner Judith and I spent eight weeks writing a business plan and meeting with Paul Speer of SCORE (a former CTO managing 5000 internationally in Web 3.0 development). Of course, not all has gone according to that plan and we’ve grown in unanticipated directions.

We’d like to take this moment to thank current and past clients:

Coffee Fest
Rewarding Feedback
Social Grub
Angela Tunner Brand
World Twang
Jenee Halstead
Dessert Professional Magazine
Oak Grove Coffeehouse

We’d also like to thank the following individuals for great conversations and dialogue over the past year:

Paul Barron, Carri Bugbee, Marsha Collier, Kerry Finstead, Matt Milletto, Zachary Cohen, Traca Savadago, Michael Atkinson, Amanda Hite, Joni Doolin, Jill McFarland, Brie Nadal, Kat Cole, Chris Brogan, Brian Solis, Eric Qualman, Chris Guillebeau, Ola Ayeni, Justin Levy, Ron Ruggles, Dan Schwabel, Amber Naslund, Sonya Schweitzer, Pia Proal, the crew at Evergreen DynamicsSo and so many, many others.

I personally would like to thank Judith Smith (VP/Co-Founder), Jennifer Kingman (Partner), Bill Bridgmon (Partner and VP Sales), David Rogers, Roger LeClerc, David Hiler, Cecilia Kingman-Miller and James Kingman. Your encouragement and support is greatly valued.

As part of our One Year Birthday, we’re very pleased to announce reaching a milestone. We’ve partnered with two outstanding individuals to empower deeper and more aggressive growth, based in Southern California and New York/New Jersey.

Southern California
We’re very excited to partner with Chef Sandra Mallut, an extremely accomplished professional pastry chef with deep connections world-wide, including Disney. Sandra will spearhead relational connections and socialmedia client development in California, Nevada and the Southwest, in addition to the dessert industry. Welcome aboard, Chef!

New York/New Jersey
We’re also very excited to partner with Matthew Vitrola, a double major honors student at Brown University, majoring in economics and linguistics, with a focus on new media and the social web and a professional interest in the hospitality industry. Matthew’s extrovert and analytic skills will be a valuable addition to Chalkboarder in pursuing new business in the Northeast. Welcome aboard, Matt!

We’re very appreciative of all the support, dialogue and encouragement we’ve received, especially from Social Media Club PDX here in Oregon. We’re excited to serve the community and our clients with greater knowledge and skill as we all move forward together.

Where’s the cake? Anyone want a slice? Ice cream too? The Vueve Clicquot is over at the bar 🙂

Jeffrey J Kingman
CEO/Founder